Don Goulding - Blog

Microwaveable Gospel

I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24) 

If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

 

“If you were to die tonight and God were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven,’ how would you answer him?” I asked a homemaker standing between the columns of her porch in Iowa. I entered her answer on the survey form and droned through my spiel. As I headed up the street, I checked the box indicating another convert had recited the sinner’s prayer. Cha-ching—I thought I heard a deposit go into my heavenly account.

I’m repenting from that naively formulaic approach to evangelism. It degrades people into conquests and ignores the reality that salvation is as much a process as it is an event. I must shun easy open, microwaveable pitches and instead, like Jesus, love others as unique creations. Above all, the Holy Spirit must enter the conversation because salvation is more about the Spirit’s enablement than it is about a prayer I can maneuver others to say.

When he asked about salvation, Nicodemus was told to be born again, the rich young ruler was encouraged to sell everything, the crowd at Pentecost was charged with repentance and baptism, while the Romans had to confess their belief with their mouths. Each response met the converts on their journey, then moved them closer to Jesus.

Hallelujah, I’ve crossed over to salvation. All the work for my pardon is completed by Jesus on the cross. However, I’m also being saved as I carry my own cross of self-denial. Thus, salvation is the bridge that joins Evangelism and Discipleship.

 

Prayer: Rescuer of souls, use me to help others on this same journey I myself am on.

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Personalized Love

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:13)

Just outside Chennai, India, a throng of bright-eyed villagers followed us hut to hut. White people were a novelty and everybody wanted a greeting or handshake. In the press around us it was impossible to engage the full beauty of each soul.

A ten-year-old boy in rags cradled a leaf over an O shape made with his finger and thumb. He slapped the leaf and it burst apart with a loud pop. To overcome the language barrier, I motioned for him to teach me his art and he adopted me as his disciple of popping. A bond was forged in that simple moment.

Later, I saw a man, presumably the boy’s Hindu father, pull the lad out of the crowd listening to my gospel presentation. My heart ached with a desire to pour a river of truth into that boy. I prayed the small, wordless interaction between us had been enough for the Holy Spirit to move him toward Christ.

Unlike me, our three in one God is able to have deep encounters with each of his of children though they number in the billions. He longs for the bond that forges when we experience him in the inner person. That’s the grace, love and fellowship Paul prays for in the verse above.

The wonder of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is that it seems so individualized, like I’m the only child in the universe. Only a unimaginably big God who’s name is love can accomplish this feat for the fifty billion souls who have trod this earth.

I was only able to share a thimble of love with the Indian boy, and in the same way I’ve only had trickles of God slip down my throat. Yet a taste of his Spirit is so potent it spreads inside until I’m changed into a new kind of person—one touched by his personal friendship.

Prayer: Beautiful triune God, may your fellowship be with me today.

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In Jesus's Name

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive it, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:24)

I needed a sermon illustration for how God answers prayer. At the same time our phone required service. I reported the trouble, then asked the Lord to cause the usually sluggish repair service to handle the matter in a timely way. This would be the perfect example for my sermon on trusting God. I wasn’t going to take matters into my own hands and pester the phone company.

Two days went by and I was tempted to make a follow-up call. Soon four days lapsed, then five. I was squirming to know if my service order had been deleted by accident, yet I wanted to hold out so the Lord could provide a living illustration.
“Okay God, I can give you until three o’clock tomorrow, then my sermon has to go forward.”

The deadline came and went, and the phone wasn’t fixed. I was out of an illustration, a telephone, and confidence in prayer.

I asked God why my experiment failed and he reminded me I often mislabel my requests as kingdom necessities. It’s silly to think I can manipulate God by declaring that my agenda is on his behalf. The relationship works the other way around. To ask in Jesus’s name is to pray in harmony with his desire. It’s not the magic utterance tacked on the end that will force the genie to perform.

When we were children my siblings and I bought our father an Easter present—a live, fluffy chick. It was a thinly veiled ploy to obtain something he’d probably not allow. As children, we lacked the foresight that a chick would grow into a rooster who crowed in the city at five in the morning. Dad named the bird No No and sent it away after the first screeching attempts at cock-a-doodle-do.

Rather than manipulating our father, we might have simply asked, “Is there a pet that would be good for us?” What loving parent could refuse such a request? That’s the kind of humble dependance I need in my prayers so my joy will be complete.

Prayer: Patient Father, show me what you want me to ask.

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